Statement of the Christian Vision Working Group of the Coordination Council on the Persecution of Mikalai Vitsikau, Orthodox Christian

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19 January 2022

On 14 January 2022, an Orthodox Christian and one of the most active parishioners of the church in the village of Ciarucha, Homeĺ district, Homeĺ region, Mikalai Herasimavich Vitsikau, was detained. He was placed in custody in a pre-trial detention centre; a preventive measure in the form of two months of arrest as a suspect under part 1 of article 130 of the Criminal Code (Inciting racial, national, religious or other social hatred or strife) was chosen for him. Earlier, on 6 January, his house was searched. Police looked for white-red-white symbols and traces of ‘extremism’ in the form of following protest Telegram channels, but found nothing.

A reason for the persecution of the 68-year-old pensioner was his participation in the discussion of amendments to the constitution of the Republic of Belarus. Responding to the call for a nationwide discussion of the constitution, Vitsikau sent his opinion on the amendments to the editorial office of the Mayak, a local newspaper. In his submission, Vitsikau criticised the expediency and the extent of powers of the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly.

Mikalai Herasimavich Vitsikau and his wife, Vera Ryhorauna Vitsikava, were among the first parishioners of the St Nicholas Monastery in Homeĺ, which has a courtyard in the village of Ciarucha (father superior — Bishop of Svietlahorsk Amvrosiy Shevtsov). Vitsikov was once the support of the rector of the church, Hieromonk Nikolay (Tarasenko), helping with house chores. His wife leads a children’s Sunday school at the same monastery.

We express our strong objection to the politically motivated persecution of the Orthodox Christian, Mikalai Herasimavich Vitsikau. We call for the trumped-up criminal case against him to be dropped, or at least — given his advanced age — to change the measure of restraint.

We express our bewilderment at the lack of any support from the leadership of the St Nicholas Monastery in the city of Homeĺ to the deliberately unfairly persecuted parishioner who greatly contributed to the development of the monastery courtyard in the Ciarucha village. We urge you to submit a petition and a guarantee to terminate the criminal case or at least change the measure of restraint.

We also draw the attention of the Belarusian Orthodox Church leadership actively encouraging Orthodox Christians to participate in the discussion of amendments to the Constitution and sending their proposals to the constitutional commission for “creating a solid legal basis”, to the persecution of Vitsikau. We call for all necessary steps to be taken to assist his immediate release and restore justice to him.

We call on the global Christian community to stand in solidarity with Mikalai Herasimavich Vitsikau and all the other numerous believers of various faiths who are unjustly persecuted by the authoritarian regime in Belarus.

Christian Vision